WRITING KNOWHOW Voice (part one)


We hear a lot about voice in writing, or industry professionals not connecting with a voice, but what exactly is meant by a writer’s “voice”? SCBWI's Emma Finlayson-Palmer gives us the lowdown.

A writer’s voice seems like an almost elusive thing and can be tricky to explain. Essentially the “voice” is how an individual writer’s personality comes through onto the page. It’s via their word choice, sentence structure, even the tone and style of punctuation. It all weaves together into a mix that is unique to that author. There are elements of the writer in there, their interests, personality and tastes can come through their voice, and this often shows up in the style of story, characters, or genre they write.

In writing fiction for children, the voice will usually work its way through your characters, especially in first person. First person often lends itself well to what is often described as being “voicey”. Often there will be more of a narrator voice present if you are writing in third person.

Character Voices – who are some of your favourite characters? Have a think about which ones stand out, how unique is their voice? Is there anything really distinctive that you notice that makes that character’s dialogue or thoughts easy to match to them?

Dave Pigeon has a very distinct voice, Skipper especially, who is the main narrator of the book, and Dave’s trusty “wing-man”. Louie Stowell’s Loki is a great example of first person and a very unique and distinct voice.


In slightly older fiction, Noah from Simon James Green’s Noah Can’t Even is a great example of a very strong character led voice.


Author’s voices – Who are your favourite authors? Have a think about what makes them stand out for you. Are you drawn to the humour that bounces off the page, like Louie Stowell’s or Simon James Green’s books. Or the dark and sombre or spooky tone that has you on the edge of your seat like Jennifer Killick's or Cynthia Murphy’s books bring. Maybe it’s the warmth and happiness radiating from books by Kate Mallinder, Katie Clapham, or Sophie Jo.


Whatever the tone that comes across is part of their unique writing voice, and once you’ve engaged with one you love, it’s what will pull you back time and time again to read more from that same author.

*Header by Tita Berredo


Emma Finlayson-Palmer is an autistic, working class writer who lives in the West Midlands with her husband and a multitude of children, cats and chickens. Author of the Autumn Moonbeam series, including Dance Magic and Spooky Sleepover, published by UCLan in 2022. Emma runs #ukteenchat, a writing themed chat on Twitter, and edits, mentors and reads competition entries for #WriteMentor and also reads flash fiction entries for Retreat West. She’s also one half of Word Witches, as a children’s fiction editor. Find Emma on Twitter @FinlaysonPalmer



Jo E Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant and Words & Pictures’ KnowHow editor. 

Got an idea for KnowHow, or a subject you’d like to hear more on? Let us know at knowhow@britishscbwi.org

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